I’ve been keeping a meal diary since I moved to university, and I want to prove that not all students live off of ready meals, toast and noodles. Admittedly two of my housemates seem to, but I honestly think I can cook better meals and save money. For a start, many ready meals are upwards of £2. Considering I spend less than £10 in total on my weekly shop, I’d be spending a fortune more if I survived on ready meals. Basically, what I’m going to do here is to write a list of all of the dinners I have eaten since I have been here. If I can, I’ll give a rough estimate of cost, and maybe a brief description of how I made it. Some might even have stomach-rumble-inducing photos too…so here goes:
Day 1: Cereal in a mug. Yes naughty of me. Yes my mum would go mad. But I had half an hour in which to eat and get ready to meet newly-made friends. I had no clean pots out. I couldn’t find any of my food I’d brought. So cereal it was.
Day 2: Nothing. Yes I know that was bad. BUT I went to ASK with the family before they left, and had a huge plate of risotto and garlic bread.
Day 3: Chilli con Carne. I portioned out a 500g pack of mince, made cottage pie, bolgnese mix and chilli – and got six meals. This was the first, and very yummy it was with rice, cheese and tortilla chips. Because I’m severely allergic to tomatoes, I use a substitute which due to p&p is very expensive. Not ideal for a student, but I use it sparingly and it does enable me to keep eating a varied diet.
Day 4: Cottage Pie (see above). All I can remember about this is that it was deconstructed as I couldn’t get the oven to turn on. I have, thankfully, solved that problem now. I had this with carrots, peas, brocoli and sweetcorn, as well as extra gravy – yummy, homely and healthy!
Day 5: Prawn Stir fry. I have written about my stir fry recipe on here before – all I did was add frozen cooked prawns. I discovered Sharwoods noodles are awful – the best are Waitrose own, the ones that only need soaking. They’re surprisingly cheap as well, but then I’m hugely defensive about Waitrose prices.
Day 6: Chicken Kiev with Couscous Salad. Had a bit of a kitchen war with my housemates on this night (which gets repeated around once a week – a group take over the kitchen cooking using the oven and all four gas rings for several hours). It was 8pm by the time I got into the kitchen, and I needed something quick. This was the answer.
Day 7: Lasagne. I used the mince mixture I’d made up previously, and half a jar of Dolmio white sauce (the same one my mum used back in the days where I could eat tomatoes). This was amazing; served with a salad it was home on a plate.
Day 8: Pasta Bake, made with ham, mushrooms and the leftover Dolmio from the day before. Again served with salad, this was an amazingly quick meal, but definitely needed more pepper in the sauce.
Day 9: Sausage Casserole. One of my most prized possessions at university is a Le Cruset dish, which is the perfect size for an individual pasta bake or lasagne. Coming a close second is my Le Cruset casserole dish. I love stews and casseroles, and they’re perfect for batch cooking. I buy the most amazing sausages from Waitrose (2 packs for £5 – I get at least 8 meals out of this, which I think is great), they are spicy with chorizo, and they make the most amazing casserole. I also buy their Cumberland sausages for toad in the hole, and meatballs. I also insist on having Waitrose cheese. And to be honest, their meat is almost always on 3 for £10, exactly the same deal as other supermarkets. And call me a snob, but I can tell the difference.
Day 10: Carbonara. This is something I’ve mastered at university. I haven’t managed to take a photo, as its something that needs to be eaten immediately. But basically cook pasta, try chopped bacon, mix cooked pasta into bacon pan, season and turn off heat. Beat eggs with lots of finely grated cheese, and gradually add to pan, stirring constantly. If needed add heat to thicken sauce. It shouldn’t scramble, especially if you add the egg gradually. I occasionally substitute the bacon with mushrooms, courgette or even sausage meat, or a combination of all three. Mushrooms and sausage is my favourite combination – like a full English pasta dish!
Day 11: Prawn, Courgette, Chilli, Lemon and Garlic Pasta. Just something quick and delicious I threw together.
Day 12: Toad in the Hole, Onion Gravy, Spinach, Cabbage, Brocoli and Peas. One of my favourite meals. I use Nigellas recipe for Chinese yorkshire pudding, in which you add flour to eggs and milk rather than the other way round. I make a huge portion, and scoff the lot. I’m hugely greedy when it comes to this dish.
Day 13: Chilli con Carne, with rice and tortilla chips. Another one of my batches from the first few days.
Day 14: Courgette carbonara. Seasoned with lemon juice; not advised with eggs, but I enjoyed the lift it gave.
Day 15: Scrambled egg on toast. This was the night I rushed to the boyfriends…to be fair we had stopped for lunch on route…I had a massive plate of chips, peppercorn sauce, grilled mushrooms and a very rare and bloody steak. Nom nom nom…
Day 16: Nothing. It was an emotional day with my man, and leaving him again made me cry for virtually the whole of my four hour train journey. I didn’t fancy a thing.
Day 17: Carrot Stir fry. It was quick and easy, and used what I had in. Still hated Sharwoods noodles though!
Day 18: Sausages, mash, and green vegetables. Reasonably easy and homely. Not impressed with my cheap potato masher though – its very bendy…
Day 19: Cheesy Ham Potato Bake. My usual pasta bake, with parboiled potatoes cut into slices replacing the pasta. Again served with a salad. I really enjoy this dish, its definitely going to be a staple over the winter!
Day 20: Sausage Casserole, mash, and vegetables.
Day 21: Cheesy Pasta Bake, again with salad.
Day 22: Steak Pie, homemade chips, and vegetables. Pukka pies can be bought and frozen in tesco, and are often on offer for £1. I always stock up as (1) it is rare to find pies without tomato in, and (2) I just love them. They do unfortunately take 50 minutes from frozen, but they’re so good I don’t care!
Day 23: Mushroom risotto, garlic bread and salad. Yes, I cooked risotto. Yes I’m not a normal student. But it was so good! I just made up the recipe, and I’ll probably do a specific blog post about it at some point as it just was so very very yummy. Risotto is actually quite quick, and good for leftovers (one day only) or freezing. Purists would frown on reheating it, but I find it works quite well. Better than reheating pasta anyway.
Day 24: Cheesy Pasta Bake and salad.
Day 25: Creamy Mushroom chicken, with rice, peas and brocoli. I love chicken tonights creamy mushroom sauce, its one of my favourite things. Yes jarred sauces are quite expensive, but I think this is worth it. I get four meals out of a jar of sauce, so its reasonably economical – its chicken thats hugely expensive.
Day 26: Sausages, Mash, and veg.
Day 27: Chilli potato bake. An experiment which didn’t exactly work. I layered chilli with potato slices, topped with cheese and tortilla chips and then baked. The textures were awful, and it was a waste of good food.
Day 28: Cheesy Pasta Bake. Needed something quick and easy as my man was coming down that night and I needed to meet him at the station!
Day 29: Carbonara and garlic bread, requested and devoured by the boyfriend. We also shared a whole chicken and four sides in Nandos…and had chocolate pudding made in the slow cooker (which unfortunately looked rather a lot like poo…). The chocolate sauce was very yummy, the sponge very odd.
Day 30: Sausage Casserole, eaten in tears having said goodbye. Good comfort food, served with mash and veg. And bread to mop up the gravy. And then the last of the chocolate pudding, which was better having rested for a day, and then heated in the microwave.
Day 31: Jacket potato with cheese and salad. Nothing much to say about this really.
Day 32: Mushroom risotto, salad and garlic bread. Not as good as my first attempt, but I was making two batches with a small amount of mushrooms, and no bacon.
Day 33: Leftover mushroom risotto.
Day 34: Pukka Steak pie, and vegetables. Yummy yum.
Day 35: Ham and Mushroom Pasta Bake – with salad. Accidently added too much garlic to the mushrooms, but it was reasonably yummy.
Day 36: Sausage casserole, with garlic bread. I spent a long day at work, got home at half eight, and needed something quick. This was the answer; and as my casserole recipe is quite spicy, it works with garlic bread.
Day 37: Chips, garlic bread and chocolate cake; celebrating a friends birthday.
Day 38: Breaded plaice fillet, new potatoes, and peas, with butter and lemon. Managed to get the plaice on a whoops in tesco – £1.25 for two fillets, instead of four pounds something, it was lovely.
Day 39: I was violently ill with a stomach bug, as was everyone else in the house. Somehow I think this might be related to one filthy housemate who continues to chop raw meat anywhere and everywhere without ever wiping down. Anyway, I didn’t eat anything.
Day 40: Luckily I was feeling better. Attended a careers event in London, where I had canapes and wine, following my a dinner date with my dad (who works in the city) – bread and balsamic, mushroom and truffle risotto to start, then braised rump of lamb with mash and green beans. Some of the nicest dinner I’ve had, although the lamb was well done rather than the medium I’ve asked for. We went to Cafe des Amis, near Covent Garden, and whilst it was lovely it was overpriced – even with 50% off using our taste card, we paid £60. Okay value at this price; full price it would have been a disappointment. But I’ll happily go back there again, maybe for a romantic dinner with the boyfriend.
Day 41: Mushroom and chicken pasta bake, using one of my Chicken tonight bag of frozen leftovers. Tasted very much like the dish on ASKs menu, I was impressed with myself. Served with garlic bread and salad. Word on the garlic bread; tesco values baguettes are 30-something pence, and are lovely. I split them into three. ASDA smart price are cheaper, but the garlic is too overpowering.
Day 42: Plaice fillet, with new potatoes, and chilli lemon garlic spinach. The last of my fish, which was very much enjoyed.
Day 43: The family came down for the weekend, and I was treated to pate and baguette, steak en croute (which I didn’t enjoy) chips and peas. Followed by two tubs of Hagen Daz split between the four of us.
Day 44: I’d been out for Sunday Lunch with the parents, so only had a bowl of cereal.
Day 45: Out for dinner with the parents before they headed home. Found an amazing pub in a village just outside Canterbury – so nice we’ve already booked a table for my birthday lunch in December. I had a chicken, leek and ham hock suet pie, with mash, courgette and cabbage (the cabbage was the best I’ve ever eaten) followed by an amazing sticky toffee pudding with ice cream. I felt feeling totally stuffed and happy.
Day 46: Toad in the hole, mash and veg. Had potatoes to use up, so had a massive, massive dinner that night.
Day 47: Cheesy Pasta Bake for lunch, crisps for dinner; I was working the late shift.
Day 48: Faggots with mash, and veg. I love faggots, but they only seem to sell them up North. I got my parents to bring several loads down from our local butcher – they are 60p each, and one is more than enough for one meal.
Day 49: Spaghetti carbonara for lunch, nothing for dinner. I was heading up to the boyfriend after three long weeks apart. Actually, I lie. I bought a Chicken & Bacon sandwich from M&S at St Pancras – it was the worst £3.25 I’ve ever spent. Very soggy, very fatty bacon, and gristly chicken. I ate two bites.
Day 50: Cheesy Pasta Bake with salad.The boyfriend makes it so much better than I do. Also had a hazelnut hot chocolate and a ‘chocolate egg and soliders’ at his local chocolate chip, preceded by cheese and ham toasties (with chips) at the local greasy spoon!
Day 51: Nothing for dinner, but me and the boy did made cheese stuffed chicken breasts, with homemade chips and chilli/garlic spinach for lunch – delicious. Didn’t make the M&S mistake on the return journey.
Day 52: Fish fingers, new potatoes, prawns, peas in a lemon garlic butter sauce. Youngs fish fingers are by far the nicest and the best quality, and at £1 for 10 I couldn’t resist a box to pop in the freezer. I have two at a time, bolstered with some sauted frozen prawns. This made for a very yummy meal.
Day 53: Carrot Stir Fry – and yep the noodles are still horrible, but they have finally all gone now!
Day 54: Mushroom pasta bake for lunch, with salad and garlic bread, crackers for dinner – another late night shift at work.
Day 55: Toad in the hole, spinach, cabbage, brocoli and peas. Was the best toad I’ve ever made. A very yummy dinner, even if I did cause the smoke alarm to go off.
Day 56: Sausage carbonara – simple and quick. Had with yet more garlic bread.
Day 57: ‘Homemade’ curry. This was a huge triumph. I finally found a curry sauce that doesn’t contain tomatoes, but tried some out of the jar and oh god it was bland! So I fried off two onions and one pepper in curry powder, and various spices. I marinaded my chicken in the same mixture of spicies, and I added three garlic cloves and two chillis, plus virtually a handful of black pepper. Two chicken breasts made three meals like this; to the one I ate tonight I also added spinach. Yes it looked liked sick, but it was the first curry I have eaten for two years, and it was delicious. I served with rice, and some naan bread.
Day 58: Cheesy Potato Bake, with garlic bread and salad. I need stodge and comfort food, as I didn’t feel great.
Day 59: Fish fingers, peas and homemade ‘chips’ – I had frozen some pre-boiled potatoes (I always tend to cook too many) so defrosted them, threw them in the oven tossed in oil, thyme, lemon juice, salt and black pepper. They were a little burnt, but tasted great, and the texture was as close to chips as I think you could get them. Will definitely have an experiment with making more like this.
Day 60: Mushroom Stroganoff. This was a bit of an experiment, and it paid off beautifully. I knew I had loads of mushrooms in the freezer – they seem to fry better from frozen – and I have a huge amount of rice, so I just bought some soured cream and raided my spice cupboard. I fried off some onion, then mushrooms, and added garlic and a little chilli. I stirred in a spoonful of paprika, added a bit of veg stock, simmered whilst the rice cooked…then stirred in a 3-4 teaspoons of soured cream and served. The sour cream did split a little – I heated it for too long – but it tasted good! Would have been better with some steak, but thats virtually impossible on a students budget! Another dinner that looks a little like sick though:
Day 61: Stir fry with rice. For some reason, my usual yummy stir fry recipe wasn’t great that night. The spring rolls I bought (50p down from £2 – and 4 more in the freezer) were great though!
Day 62: Homemade mushroom risotto – I seriously love this, isn’t become one of my favourite meals! Had with garlic bread and salad.
Day 63: Mushroom risotto again – it reheats beautifully as long as the leftover portion is undercooked. Had with salad, after coming home at 10pm from work and then picking the boyfriend up at the station. He wasn’t as impressed as me – but then he heavily dislikes mushrooms.
Day 64: Chicken and sausage casserole, with mash and veg. This was delicious, and a bit of a treat as the boyfriend was round. No photos unfortunately, as it was just to yummy to risk getting cold. We also split a whole tub of Karamel Sutra – haven’t been so full since I started university! I was especially full as we’d found an amazing cafe in Canterbury that lunch – Christmas Dinner baguettes are the best sandwich invention ever!
Day 65: Reheated chicken curry. Yes, it still looked like sick, but it froze and reheated really well. I again added spinach, and served with rice and naan. Great comfort food after the train station goodbyes!
Day 66: Cheesy Pasta Bake, with salad.
Day 67: Faggots, mash, cabbage, brocoli, peas and lots of onion gravy. Delicious on a very cold and rainy day!
Day 68: Nothing for dinner, as I was working late, but for lunch I made bubble’n’squeak, with sausages, bread, and sweet chilli sauce. This deserves a blog post of its own!
Day 69 (que immature giggle): More cheesy pasta bake and salad. I have this far too often, but its so good! Served with a massive plate of salad, I didn’t feel toooo gulity when I ate this entire huge portion!
Day 70: Steak pie, mash, gravy and vegetables.
Will try and keep this post updated – and post more regularly.